Evan Turner was named the Big Ten player of the year earlier this week. After his performance in the conference tournament quarterfinals, he showed why he should be considered national player of the year as well.
After hitting a buzzer-beater to advance his team, Turner and the fifth-ranked Buckeyes play Illinois on Saturday in the Big Ten tournament semifinals at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.Ohio State (25-7) won its fifth straight overall Friday, beating Michigan 69-68 after Turner hit a 37-footer as time expired. He was 1 for 8 from the field in the first half, but finished with 18 points, eight assists and two blocked shots."You can't really practice for these moments, you just have to come out and come ready," Turner said of his late-game heroics.The Buckeyes, who hadn't played since a 73-57 win over Illinois on March 2, led by 13 points with 10:23 remaining, but Michigan went on a 17-8 run to take a two-point lead with 2.2 seconds left. Turner then took an inbounds pass, dribbled upcourt and confidently hit the game-winner to bail Ohio State out. The win kept the Buckeyes' hopes for one of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament alive.Despite the thrilling victory, Ohio State knows it cannot afford to let teams back in. The Buckeyes allowed the Wolverines to shoot 52.0 percent and connect on seven 3-pointers in the second half."I think this is a game to shake the cobwebs out," Turner said. "We know we really have to finish off the game and keep our foot on the pedal ... We just have to come back tomorrow and really keep executing."While Turner was the hero, David Lighty and William Buford each added 15 points and contributed late. Buford scored five of his points in the final 6 1/2 minutes and Lighty tied the game at 66 with 13 seconds left.Ohio State will look to defeat Illinois for a third time this season as it tries to advance to the tournament finals for a second straight year. Turner averaged 16.0 points while Jon Diebler averaged 19.5 in the two regular-season matchups, which the Buckeyes won by a combined 35 points.Although Illinois coach Bruce Weber said containing Diebler will be a big focus Saturday, he recognizes the danger that Turner possesses."Evan is a great player," Weber said. "I've watched him since his sophomore year in high school and he continues to get better and better."Weber and the Illini (19-13), though, may have some renewed confidence following a 58-54 win over No. 13 Wisconsin on Friday -- just their second victory in seven games. Mike Tisdale scored 21 points and Demetri McCamey added 13 points and eight assists and Illinois hung on after blowing a 16-point lead.The Illini held the Badgers to 28.6-percent shooting and built a comfortable lead before Wisconsin made a late comeback. Jason Bohannon's potential tying 3-pointer hit the front of the rim with 15.9 seconds remaining, though, and Illinois held on.While the win may have improved the Illini's chances at an NCAA tournament bid, they insist they aren't worried about that now."The thought is we're in the Big Ten tournament right now, we're not anywhere further than that," Tisdale said. "We play Ohio State tomorrow. There's no thought process after that."The Illini last advance to the tournament championship game in 2008.